The Premier League rights awarded for another three years mean that some broadcasters need to have a look at their business plans, writes Julian Clover.
Here we go, here we go, here we go. The rights to the Premier League from the start of the 2013/14 football season bring with it the promise of another sports channel.
BSkyB again secured the maximum of five packages allowed since the interference of the European Commission. It should come as no surprise that Sky should pick up a total of 116 games, including 20 first picks and all 2nd and 3rd picks.
The surprise is the entry of BT, which has secured a live package for the first time, having previously offered a Saturday evening highlights show. The James Richardson fronted show disappeared once BT gained access to Sky Sports 1 and 2 under Ofcom’s wholesaling ruling.
BT’s £246 million per season purchase gets it 38 matches per season. So much for Al Jazeera, which was said to be preparing a bid.
There is no question of the football fan being deprived of the fullest of coverage if they don’t have BT Vision – the telco has already said that it intends to make its new ‘interactive’ sports channel available to other platforms – though that assumes a deal can be done with both Sky and Virgin Media.
It does however give BT Vision an excellent bargaining chip and my hunch would be that any final deal will see the appearance of Sky Sports 3 and 4 on the IPTV service. BT is currently finalizing plans that will see linear channels delivered over its network for the first time rather than relying entirely on Freeview, as is presently the case.
The loser in all of this is ESPN, which has already signaled a retrenchment of some of its international ambitions, though there is no suggestion that anything drastic will happen to its UK premium channel.
ESPN picked up the pieces following the demise of Setanta Sports, initially with two of the then six live packages on the Setanta contract and one of its own. The Disney-backed network also secured rights to the FA Cup, international football, and a number of major rugby competitions.
However, the consumer purse is not made of elastic, and something has to give. It won’t be Sky that is worrying when such decisions have to be made.